The Commission has given considerable thought to the evolution of criteria for identifying ‘backward classes’ for the purpose of Article 16 (4) of the Constitution of India in relation to Kerala State. While framing the criteria the Commission has kept in view the important observations made in the Judgement of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 930 of 1990 “Indra Sawhney and others Vs. Union of India and others” delivered on 16.11.1992. The Commission has specially taken note of the following observations in the Judgement:-

“…… If one keeps in mind the context in which Article 16 (4) was enacted it would be clear that the accent was upon social backwardness. It goes without saying that in Indian context, social backwardness leads to educational backwardness and both of them together lead to poverty-which in turn breeds and perpetuates the social and educational backwardness……..” (Para 85 of the Judgement)

“……… We are, accordingly, of the opinion that the backwardness contemplated by Article 16 (4) is mainly social backwardness. It would not be correct to say that the backwardness under Article 16 (4) should be both social and educational ……” (Para 85 of the Judgement)

“……. The accent in Article 16 (4) appears to be on social backwardness. Of course, social educational and economic backwardness are closely inter-twined in the Indian context…….” (Para 88 of the Judgement)

“Not only should a class be a backward class for meriting reservations, it should also be inadequatel represented in the services under the State………” (Para 89 of the Judgement)

“The expression ‘backward class’ in Article 16 (4) takes in ‘Other Backward Classes’, SCs., STs and may be some other backward classes as well. The accent in Article 16 (4) is upon social backwardness. Social backwardness leads to educational backwardness and economic backwardness. They are mutually contributory to each other and are inter-twined with low occupations in the Indian society. A caste can be and quite often is a social class in India. Economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for determining the backward class of citizens contemplated by Article 16 (4)…..” (Para 122 (2) of the Judgement)


A. Social


(1)     Castes and communities generally considered as socially backward.

(2a)    Castes and communities which mainly depend on agricultural or other manual labour for their livelihood.

(2b)  Castes and communities which under the traditional caste system are identified with traditional crafts or occupations considered to be lowly impure, unclean, stigmatised or undignified like pottery, fishing, lime burning , toddy tapping, rearing of animals, leather working, hair cutting, washing of clothes, grain roasting, entertaining through songs and dance, jugglery, begging and traditional mendicancy.

(2c)    Castes and communites which under the traditional caste system were considered as polluting castes or un-approachables.

(2d)   Castes and communities which under the traditional caste system were subject to discriminatory treatment like denial of entry into places of worship and public offices and use of facilities like public pathways, tanks and wells.

(2e)  Castes and communities in which the participation of women and children in manual work is at least 25% above the State average.

(3)     Castes and communities which have no representation or have only poor representation in the State Legislature. Panchayats and other elective bodies at the State or other levels during the 10 years preceding the date of the request or complaint.

(4)  Castes and communities which do not have a congenial social and cultural environment for their total development.
(5)  Castes and communities which lack the ability or motivation to secure adequate representation in services under the State.
(6)  Castes and communities which ordinarily live in rural, isolated segregated or slum areas.

NOTE:  In term (3) above, ‘poor representation’ refers to a situation where the number of persons belonging to a particular caste or community in the elective body is less than 25% of its proportion in the population and ‘request’ or ‘complaint’ is used as contemplated in section 9 (1) of the Kerala State Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.

B. Educational

(1) Castes and communities in which the proportion of those who have passed the 10th standard or equivalent is at least 20% less than the State or District average.
(2) Castes and communities in which the proportion of graduates is at least 10% less than the State or District average.
(3) Castes and communities where the proportion of professionally qualified persons e.g., Engineers, Doctors and Chartered Accountants and of persons occupying important posts in the Judiciary and the Executive is at least 25% below the State average.
(4) Castes and communities in which the rate of student drop-out in the age group of 7-15 years is at least 15% above the State average.
(5) Castes and communities which show an apathy or indifference to education.
(6) Castes and communities which under the traditional caste system were denied access to formal education and were generally considered as educationally backward.

C. Economic
(1) Castes and communities identified with traditional crafts and occupations like those mentioned in Part- A items (2a), (2b) & (2c) and lacking any significant resource base.
(2) Castes and communities whose members or organisations do not own any educational institutions, industrial establishments or other sources of employment.

(3) Castes and communities where the average family income is at least 20% below the State average.

NOTE: In Item (3) above, ‘family’ means husband, wife and dependent children.


The Commission has decided to fix the weightage of the above groups of criteria, ie., social, educational and economic as 80%, 10% and 10% respectively.



After determining whether a particular caste or community mentioned in a request or complaint is backward as per the above criteria, the Commission proposes to apply the test of adequacy of representation in services to the castes and communities identified as backward. The adequacy of representation will be determined not only in terms of numbers but also the quality of representation. Only those classes which pass the twin tests of backwardness and adequacy of representation can be considered as ‘backward’ in terms of Article 16(4) of the Constitution of India.